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Sketchbooks Research Guide

Loose Folios from Sketchbooks

Today, thousands of drawings extracted from sketchbooks are dispersed around the world as loose folios. Some of these drawings bear physical evidence of their sketchbook origins, such as a torn edge or “stitch holes” along one side of the sheet where it was once sewn to other folios. Since sketchbook folios were occasionally numbered sequentially, old numbering can indicate that loose drawings once belonged to a sketchbook and furthermore provide grounds for reconstructing their order. In some instances, scholars have identified groups of drawings by a single artist on similar paper and that are closely related in size, media, style, date, and/or subject matter that likely once formed part of a sketchbook.

Fra Bartolommeo’s Three Studies of Trees of about 1508 came from what may be the earliest known sketchbook used by an artist to draw pure landscapes from nature, or en plein air. 41 additional landscape studies from this sketchbook have been identified in other collections. (JPGM 2001.9)







This folio from ca. 1510, together with dozens of other folios in collections worldwide, shows how the itinerant artist Cesare da Sesto (1477-1523) used his sketchbook to record and combine motifs he studied from drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. (JPGM 86.GA.1)




Aurelio Luini (1530-1593), the second generation of a dynasty of Milanese painters, owned one of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks. In the 1570s, Luini made at least one sketchbook of his own that included this folio filled with several standing figures, some of which he went on to use in a fresco. (JPGM 85.GG.229)






This now disbound sketchbook by the Medici court architect Giulio Parigi (1571-1635) probably records an actual journey he made from Florence through central Italy to Rome in 1616, and includes landscape vistas of numerous hilltop towns as well as monuments in Rome. At an unknown date, the folios were taken out of the sketchbook and individually mounted. (880394*)




Otto Greiner (1869-1916) was a German Symbolist painter, printmaker, and prolific draftsman. In addition to two sketchbooks by Greiner (both dated 1889), the GRI has loose folios that once belonged to sketchbooks. The drawings are mostly quickly sketched figure studies. (2016.PR.34 Boxes 82–84, Sketchbook 1, Sketchbook 2).

Bernard Rudofsky (1905-1988) was a peripatetic Austrian-American architect who taught and worked in Europe, America, and Brazil. In 1925, when he was 20, he made watercolor studies of Istanbul on sketchbook pages that are now loose; the next year he filled another sketchbook with watercolors of Paris, mostly views taken from along the Seine. Some of these folios are still held together with thread, others are loose. (920004*)